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Lowry Vetoes Measure To Shield Contributors Political Discrimination Against Employees Still Illegal

A legislative attempt to wipe out requirements that campaign contributors disclose what they do for a living was vetoed Tuesday by Gov. Mike Lowry.

The governor, acting on a measure making mostly technical changes in campaign disclosure law, also vetoed language that would have wiped out a section of disclosure law banning employers from discriminating against workers because they resist company pressure to support or oppose political causes or candidates.

The state Public Disclosure Commission imposes a requirement that contributors of $100 or more disclose their occupations and employer. The commission argues that without the information, disclosure becomes meaningless because all the public has is a list of names and amounts given.

The commission contends that occupations and employer identifications are needed to determine who is influencing whom and also to detect illegal “bundling,” in which a particular industry gives huge amounts of money under the guise of scores of individual contributions, which are subject to limits.

Legislative critics of the requirement have argued that it violates a citizen’s right to privacy, and they tried to ban the commission from imposing it.

Lowry also kept in place the ban on discrimination against workers who refuse to take part in political activities. He did so partly on grounds it had received little legislative debate and also because it is the “subject of ongoing litigation regarding whether or not employers may be prevented from mandating the political neutrality of their employees in cases where the nature of the job requires it.”

He was referring to a lawsuit against the News Tribune of Tacoma by Sandy Nelson, a News Tribune copy editor who contends she was removed from her position as education reporter because she refused to end her political activities as a champion of gay and women’s rights. She also is active in the Freedom Socialist Party.